Nitish's 'Cluelessness' Amid BJP's Bihar Expansion Plan May Risk JD(U)'s Damage

Many senior party leaders, for the first time, shifted their attack on the BJP from the LJP, holding their saffron ally responsible for the JD(U)’s poor show in Bihar's assembly elections.

Patna: Nitish Kumar’s statement that he “failed to understand who were his friends and who were his enemies during the recently concluded state elections”, apparently reflects his “cluelessness” against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in a way is systematically corroding his own party, Janata Dal (United).

A dozen of his party’s defeated candidates squarely blamed the BJP for their defeat. “The BJP used Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president, Chirag Paswan as a ‘pawn’ to defeat the JD(U),” said Bogo Singh, defeated JD(U) candidate from Matihani in Begusarai. Many senior party leaders, for the first time, shifted their attack on the BJP from the LJP, holding their saffron ally responsible for the JD(U)’s poor show in Bihar’s assembly elections, at their state executive meeting last week.

And the chief minister who is otherwise known for the economy of words, sounded in agreement with his party colleagues. “During the election campaigns, I failed to understand who our friends were and who our enemies were. I had a sense of the ground reality when I returned home after the day’s campaigning but it was too late. Had the distribution of seats among the allies taken place five months in advance, the JD(U) wouldn’t have suffered. It was the JD(U) that suffered more because of the confusion,” Nitish said, blaming the BJP for creating “confusion”.

He reiterated, “I was not ready to become the chief minister. I accepted the position on the request and under pressure from the BJP.”

A section of media has tried to interpret Nitish’s sudden utterances against the BJP as part of his strategy to score over his ally that has won 74 MLAs emerging as an emphatic big brother against the JD(U), which has been reduced to 43 seats. But a close inquiry in his party brings to the fore his “helplessness and cluelessness” against the BJP, which is seemingly working to systematically eat into the JD(U) and expand itself over its (JDU’s) residue.

Also read: We’re Witnessing the Irrevocable Loss of ‘Brand’ Nitish Kumar

BJP’s systematic operation against JD(U)

The Wire in its reports, along with other media publications, had clearly indicated that the BJP had been “clandestinely” using Ram Vilas Paswan’s son to its advantage, in order to reduce Nitish Kumar’s clout in Bihar. In fact, BJP leaders including home minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda met Chirag Paswan at least six times in the run up to the assembly elections.

Former deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi, was an exception in “honestly” attacking Chirag during the campaign. However, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and a battery of star campaigners of the BJP were ambiguous about Chirag, over a dozen hardcore RSS-BJP leaders contested assembly elections on LJP’s tickets.

By saying that he “failed to understand who his enemies were and who his friends were”, Nitish has just admitted what the media wrote during the assembly elections.

While “hurting” Nitish through Chirag, the Modi-Shah-led BJP is believed to have made inroads into the JD(U)’s parliamentary party too. Nitish recently got himself replaced as the JD(U) president by ‘trusted’ protégée and his party leader in the Rajya Sabha, Ram Chandra Prasad Singh.

It is pertinent to remember here that RCP – as Singh is commonly referred to – led the JD(U) MPs to vote for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and strongly advocated for the implementation of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in the Rajya Sabha. JD(U) leader Lallan Singh led JD(U) MPs to vote for CAA in the lower house.

The grapevine in the BJP has it that RCP, Lallan and several other JD(U) MPs are “enamoured” by the prime minister and Union home minister. Moreover, they are aspirants for ministerial berths which only the prime minister can fulfil. “They (RCP, Lallan and their likes) want Nitish to be in sync with the BJP on ideological planes too. Though they continue to be loyal to Nitish, they have got saffron philosophy in their heart and mind”, confided a senior BJP leader.

Ironically, Nitish who got a resolution against NRC passed in the Bihar legislature has given prominence to supporters of NRC and CAA in the JD(U). Personally, Nitish might be opposed to the NRC and even CAA but his party has got more MPs who “idolise” Modi and Shah on the issue.

Also read: The Numbers Hide a Political Churning in Bihar

Possible solution?

What is the way out for Nitish when the leader of opposition and chief ministerial face of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led Mahagathbandhan, Tejashwi Yadav, has categorically stated that there is no room for Nitish in Mahagathbandhan?

Replying to the query, senior vice-president of the RJD and veteran socialist leader, Shivanand Tiwary, who had played a pioneering role in the formation of Samata Party that later became JD(U) said, “Tejashwi has stated what he is supposed to speak in the given situation. It’s time for Nitish to take a call. The RJD will have no option other than supporting him if he (Nitish) leaves the BJP and goes for a confidence motion in the House. The ball is in Nitish’s court and there is a way out too. But Nitish will have to take the plunge to save the socialist secular ideology and his party”.

Shivanand pointed out, “Nitish is still doing everything to increase his bargaining power with the BJP.” And the BJP – busy with West Bengal elections – might give him some concessions too. But the saffron party is very meticulous and systematic in devouring the JD(U).

The BJP has not so far reacted to Nitish’s utterances. But the party organised a two-day training camp on January 9 and 10 at Rajgir under the stewardship of its general secretary and Bihar in-charge, Bhupendra Yadav. “It was a session to train BJP leaders on the party’s ideology, agenda and its policies,” said the BJP spokesman, Nikhil Anand. And the BJP’s ideology and agenda are an open secret. 

Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, author and professor of journalism and mass communications at Invertis University, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.